As a single person Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a drag; going to a restaurant plastered in big red hearts, when you are having dinner alone, can be more than a little uncomfortable. I had this experience just yesterday hence the urge to write about it.
Having a lover is great, but what is undoubtedly better, is being able to love yourself. This might sound a bit clichéd, but it is the holy grail of happiness. Whether you have a partner or not, the work of loving yourself is hard work; it takes persistence, it takes time and it takes nerves of steel to face all the hidden, niggling doubts and fears which constitute a lot of what we call our personality. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find it hard enough to spend the days with the thoughts in my own head, never mind having to accommodate another person in my life.
The Key to self Love
There is a statement which I think is the key to being in good relationship with yourself or even another.
‘The more I get to know myself, the more I realise I don’t know myself at all’.
I find this statement to be beautiful and after many years in personal growth work, I find it has more and more depth of meaning each passing year. As Valentine’s day approaches, we can’t help but cast a critical eye on our love lives, whether we are in a relationship or not. Everything in our environment screams out with big red hearts calling for our attention.
The number one obstacle to love is judgement. That feeling that you know what someone is going to say, what they mean, who they are. There is something totally fresh about looking at someone with an uncritical gaze, and it’s a difficult thing to do. The most important teaching I have understood in personal growth work is that when we judge others or ourselves, we haven’t yet learned to look at ourselves through the filter of compassionate eyes.
How do we learn to look at ourselves with compassionate eyes? To me, it is making the distinction between a subconscious pattern and a conscious desire. This means looking at oneself and the ones we love with fresh eyes, with a gaze that says ‘I’m curious about who you are. I’d like to find out more about you’. It might sound a bit mad to ask such a question about someone with whom you have spent many years. However, cultivating this freshness of looking can soften so many edges of our personalities.
To hold everyone, starting with ourselves, within the gaze of compassion is a precious gift, and it’s a gift that bears fruit with diligent cultivation.
The job of a good friend or partner is to have the wisdom to allow space for unlearning to happen, for a sense of newness and wonder to arise. It is in this space that we can let go of the limited beliefs which hold us back. The beliefs which keep us attracting the things we don’t want, again and again.
My experience as a bodyworker has taught me that the body heals when we relax and let go of holding, when we arrive into the newness of soft muscles, muscles which let go of holding. It is as if our bodies melt in such moments, and often people will say ‘my body feels totally new’. I know this from giving thousands of massages over 15 year. I also know that the mind quietens when we have time and space to slow down our thoughts, I know this because I have been meditating for 20 years and I feel it as soon as I sit down to meditate. There is a melting into the present moment. Simply arriving in the now and being with whatever arises.
If I was to take these thoughts a step further I’d say for myself, the journey of personal growth has been about learning what is not true, rather than reaching outwards to discover what is true. It is a journey of unlearning my programmed habituated behaviour. It’s about unlearning who I believe I am, and arriving at a place where I’m curious about who I am today. The mind and body stop screaming for attention when we give ourselves space, loving nourishing space. It’s a slow and delicate process of unlearning and being gentle.
To learn to love one’s self as one loves a lover, a dear friend or a child, is the greatest aspiration. Falling in love; deeper in love, as the years go by – is an enviable life goal in my opinion. As I think these thoughts a smile arises on my face and something deep inside me softens and says ‘yes’ to this feeling.
It’s liberating to see who we are without harsh self judgement, and when we are on a path to learn this, we become our own best friend, our own lover, our own innocent, lovable, vulnerable, joyful child. It’s a relationship worth cultivating. Remember this on Valentine’s Day.